9 Symptoms of an Unclear Corporate Strategy

A man stands on a clear yellow line above a confusing mix of white paths going nowhere

Strategic clarity matters. If you don’t know where you want to go, how on earth can you get there?

It’s astounding how many leaders miss the most important aspect of creating a sound corporate strategy…cascading it clearly throughout the organization so that each employee truly understands their role, and the roles of those around them, in achieving the critical few things that matter most.

It is also surprising to us that so many organizations miss the clues that could warn them that they are off track in terms of strategic clarity.

Take a quick look at this list of symptoms of an unclear strategy and see if your business plan for success is at risk:

  1. Not enough stakeholders believe the strategy is implementable.
    Employees don’t believe changes that are discussed will actually be implemented in the current organizational culture. Too many plans have been hashed out in meetings but never executed. This is often a sign of a lack of strong leadership and a lack of accountability down the line. Beware if less than 75% of the population believes that the strategy is clear, believable and implementable enough.
  2. Substandard performers are kept on beyond a reasonable time to help them improve.
    The consequence of allowing underperformers to remain on the team for too long is not only a loss of productivity from the low performers but also a loss of motivation by those who observe the lack of consequences for not performing up to par. A low performance bar affects everyone. Beware if low performers remain on the team for too long.
  3. The company fails to hit important targets on a regular basis.
    Something is seriously wrong if important milestones are routinely missed. Either the goals were not realistic, they were miscommunicated or there were no clear consequences for failure to reach them. Beware if targets routinely slip.
  4. Goals, roles and success metrics are unclear or conflicting.
    If employees are uncertain about what, specifically, they are responsible to accomplish and where they fit in the overall plan, performance and employee engagement suffers. Do not let employees be confused about their job and their role in the context of strategic imperatives. Beware if people do not know how their success is measured and what they can count on from others.
  5. Time is wasted.
    Employees are occupied but too often in the wrong direction. They are busy but not focused on activities that drive business success and translate into what target customers want and need. They fill out reports that go nowhere, attend meetings that lack meaningful agendas and do not result in action, over-think decisions, spend time hunting down information that should have been shared, etc. Beware if the majority of time is not spent on executing strategic priorities.
  6. A lack of customer focus.
    Products and services are enhanced with extras that do not really benefit target customers…instead they only drain profits and confuse service offerings. The picture of the target customer is fuzzy or not agreed to by all key stakeholders. Beware if your customers are not at the heart of what you are doing.
  7. Decision making is not aligned.
    Decisions are not made according to strategic priorities. Instead initiatives are driven by the quick, the easy, the political or the way it’s always been done. Beware of a lack of strategic decisiveness and consistency.
  8. Organizational health and employee engagement is suffering.
    Employees are over-worked and under-satisfied. They have no hope of a better work-life balance or of taking advantage of any career development opportunities. Beware if employee advocacy, discretionary effort or retention falters.
  9. Minimal accountability and finger pointing.
    “Passing the buck” is rampant throughout the organization. Few are willing to take responsibility for missteps. Beware of ambiguity in terms of responsibility, accountability and performance metrics.

Are any of these traits familiar? If so, your organization is most likely suffering from a lack of strategic clarity. The time spent correcting the above problems will serve you well. It is far easier to operate successfully when everyone understands where the company is going and how it is going to get there.

Designing your corporate strategy is only the first step. You must ensure the strategy is clearly cascaded throughout the organization so that every employee gets it, believes it can be achieved, and is fully engaged in the process.

To learn more, download How Strategic Clarity Distinguishes High Performing Leaders – The Elite 6%

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